Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Workers protest factory shutdowns



Workers protest factory shutdowns

Workers protest at the Yu Da garment factory yesterday after their employer absconded without paying them.
Workers protest at the Yu Da garment factory yesterday after their employer absconded without paying them. Hong Menea

Workers protest factory shutdowns

Roughly 2,000 garment workers protested yesterday outside three factories in Por Sen Chey district after the owner abruptly shut down operations and fled – within a day of sending them to listen to a speech by Prime Minister Hun Sen about how the country does not need a labour court to settle disputes.

Workers at Yu Fa Garment Industry and its sister companies, Yu Da Garment Industry and SRE Garment Co Ltd, say they are now without their severance or pay for the month of January.

Employee Keang Sath, 32, said workers were given the afternoon off after being sent to listen to Hun Sen’s speech on Wednesday morning. In the interim, the factory was shuttered.

“When I came to work this morning, the factory was locked and they wouldn’t let us go inside to work,” Sath said. “They told us the owner ran away and that there is no work for us.”

According to Sath, the factory recently changed owners and many employees had been asked to work half-time last month.

In his speech Wednesday, Hun Sen told Sath and other workers that there was no need for a specialised labour court in Cambodia and that they should be able to find “win-win” solutions with their employers on their own or through the existing Arbitration Council.

Labour rights advocates, while divided on the need for a labour court, said that the Yu Fa case exemplifies why more regulations are needed to protect workers.

Solidarity Center’s William Conklin said that although the government often steps in when a factory closes to sell its remaining assets and distribute the proceeds, the amount is often less than what workers are legally owed.

“Sometimes, [the severance] can be a very large amount,” Conklin said. “It’s not surprising the owners most likely don’t have it or don’t want to pay it.”

Conklin suggested that factories be required to put down a deposit that can be used to pay severance for workers in case the owner absconds.

Moeun Tola of Central said while he believes a labour court is needed, he prefers enhancing the powers of the Arbitration Council, which operates independently.

For now, “if the owner ran away, we should look at their parent company and the brands who sourced from the factory,” Tola said.

A woman who answered the company phone yesterday declined to speak about the situation because she was “small staff”. However, workers said the company supplies US brands Walmart and JCPenney.

Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said in a message yesterday that the ministry had the “means, laws and regulations” to handle the case.

“It is not the first case,” Sour said. “We successfully solved the case in the past. We will keep working and fighting for the benefit of workers.”

Garment worker Hoeun Malay, 24, who is eight months pregnant, said a solution is needed quickly.

“I was so sad when I heard,” said Malay. “I don’t have money to deliver my baby. If I don’t get my salary pay, I don’t know what I will do.”

This version corrects the name of the factory to Yu Fa.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • PM asks India for vaccine help

    Prime Minister Hun Sen is seeking assistance from India for the provision of Covid-19 vaccines as the country has produced its own vaccine which is scheduled to be rolled out to more than 300 million Indians this year. The request was made during his meeting with

  • Capital set to beef up security

    Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng held the first meeting of the year with heads of armed forces in the capital to review and repair the deficiencies related to gun control, drug crimes, social order disruptions due to alcohol consumption and traffic law enforcement. Municipal